/ Home & Energy

Neonicotinoids – is it time for them to buzz off?

A honey bee on a purple flower

It’s been a tough few years for bees, with numbers dropping in the UK and internationally. Could agricultural insecticides be to blame? Do you use insecticides to keep your garden pest-free?

Everyone agrees that bee numbers are in decline, but the reasons why are still hotly debated.

It’s likely that there are several factors at work, but one that’s been in the frame for a while is a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids. They’re used on some crops and can also be found in many garden pesticides. They’ve already been banned in several countries, including France.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to suspend three neonicotinoids from sale and to overhaul pesticide safety tests, which it says are inadequate. It also wants David Cameron to urgently implement a Bee Action Plan. The campaign has been given a boost by a recent European Food Standards Authority Report, which suggests that neonicotinoids pose a risk to bees.

Banishing the bug killers

B&Q and Homebase have recently announced that they’re removing Bayer Lawn Grub Killer from their shelves and Wickes is withdrawing Westland Plant Rescue Bug Killer, both of which contain neonicotinoids. But there are at least 20 more products that contain these chemicals, many of them popular insecticides, and there are, as yet, no plans to withdraw these. A full list of pesticides containing neonicotinoids can be found at pan-uk.org.

Manufacturers insist that pesticides are safe if used according to the label – but does everyone read the label? Even if you do, the wording about bees and the warning not to spray plants in flower or when bees are likely to be flying around is often so small that it could easily go unnoticed.

Dr Ken Thompson, wildlife expert and Which? Gardening contributor, says:

‘Neonics are very effective pesticides, so I can understand the temptation to use them. But they get into pollen and nectar, so you are likely to feed them to your bees, however careful you are. My advice would be to think very hard about whether you really need to use insecticides at all, and then use them only as a last resort. And if at all possible, do not use insecticides on or near plants with flowers that are visited by bees.’

I haven’t had to think about it much at all – I don’t use insecticides. Anything that’s labelled a ‘bug killer’ will kill any bug, not just bad ones. Bees need all the help they can get, so surely anything that is thought to harm them should be withdrawn as a precaution?

Do you use insecticides and if so, do you read the label? Do you think neonicotinoids should be banned?

Comments
Rupertlyttelton says:
28 February 2013

Wavechange wrote:

“Is it not better to try a ban in those countries that appear to be worst affected and look for evidence of improvement? If that is seen then the ban can be extended. Don’t forget that the precautionary principle has been widely criticised.”

Criticised by whom?

I would have thought that a ban on neonics everywhere until they have been properly tested would be the sensible thing to do and I’m surprised that you have such a cavalier attitude to the use of these chemicals. You appear to be on the wrong wavelength, Wavechange.

I don’t want us to continue using neonicotinoids, but I am trying to point out that use of pesticides is a very complex issue. I’m at least prepared to understand that I have a very incomplete knowledge.

I guess that you have a mobile phone. Had we adopted the precautionary principle, we would not have had these phones because of the risk of radiation from the handsets and from the unsightly masts that litter the countryside. We would not have had wireless devices inside and outside the home, or microwave ovens – all sources of radiation. We certainly would not have been sitting in front of CRT screens of TVs and computers. In fact we would not have pylons and an electricity distribution system that is still believed by a fair number of people to have an adverse effect on human health. Always paying attention to the precautionary principle could have put paid to the development civilisation as we know it. We might still be living in caves, if we had survived famine and disease.

Rupertlyttelton says:
28 February 2013

I don’t have a mobile phone or a microwave oven; not for any health reasons, I just don’t need see any reason to have either one. Your analogy of scientific progress is not a good one. The fact that insecticides kill insects was known before neonicotinoids came on the scene. The main problem with neonics is that their toxicity has not been properly tested. It is a known fact that they kill bees. There is no excuse for ignoring this. It is criminal negligence. The cost of food is also a sloppy argument. Food will cost considerably more if bees are destroyed than the doubtful reduction in yield caused by banning neonicotinoids.

wavechange – you want to control population? There have been some horrific attempts in the past, either directly or indirectly, generally fuelled by chemical companies, whether gas, explosives, or biological. I’m sure you do not suggest that control is the way forward – who decides?
I am also wary of genetically modified crops, as a way of making them insect resistant. However, speeding up the process of natural selection in this way can make a big impact on crop yields and is a preferable way forward, if only the royalty / patent system that makes them cash cows can be made fairer.
One way of feeding ourselves better is, for those who have even modest gardens, to grow appropriate foods ourselves . This was, I am told, successful when it was desperate in the war, so we may need to return to it.

I have been advocating use and further development of biological control agents (often use of natural predators), Malcolm. Many are permitted by the Soil Association:
http://www.soilassociation.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=XN06h4o5BOs%3D&tabid=143
One of the problems with biological control agents is that they are typically highly specific and hence of limited value. Breeding of pest-resistant varieties continues to be important, even though it has always been a considerable challenge.

At one time I was opposed to genetically-manipulated microorganisms, but for years we have been using ‘human’ insulin and other drugs produced by GM bacteria and yeasts without problems. I remain opposed to GM plants, whether for food or other use, and research being driven by commercial organisations whose first priority is profit rather than safety.

I completely agree that those of us with gardens should be using them to produce food, and growing varieties resistant to pests.

Phil Chandler says:
28 February 2013

‘wavechange’ – the fact that (a) you seem to be spending a lot of time here, and (b) you have not taken a firm position is still making me suspicious.

You continue to use the tactic of appearing to agree with an anti-pesticide position, then adding a sneaky little caveat: biological controls are good, BUT they can be too specific; organic is good, BUT there may be pesticides in it; GM food is bad, BUT we use in medicine so maybe it isn’t so bad; I don’t want to use neonics, BUT what about the economy; Soil Association report all well and good, BUT they can’t be trusted to tell the truth.

Either you are an honest guy with lots of doubts who has difficulties with commitment, or you are deliberately attempting to undermine the argument against neonics while superficially supporting it.

So, a clear answer please: are you prepared to support a precautionary ban on neonicotinoids or not?

Hello Phil, please try not to make your comments personal. As our commenting guidelines set out, please be kind to other commenters: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines

Phil – I don’t know about neonicotinoids to offer a personal recommendation – it is not a case of being unable to make a commitment. Having trained as a scientist I quickly learned the need to recognise my own limitations, and trained others to do the same.

I suggest that the government takes advice from experts, including scientists in France and elsewhere where use is restricted. Since a ban would affect farmers, it is obviously essential to speak to their representatives and explore alternative solutions for pest control.

Phil – You have commented that I have spent a lot of time in this discussion. I simply find it far more interesting than watching TV, etc. and I enjoy a good discussion. I’ve also contributed a lot to the discussions about nutritional therapy and low energy light bulbs. These topics have attracted some people with strong views, and I’m not sure that they have always thought about all the issues.

Anyway, I will bid you all farewell for the time being. Bye for now.

wavechange – regarding precautions. You are right, if we avoided anything new just in case (travelling on a train at 40mph – sorry imperial vs. metric contributors but it is history -) was claimed by Lardner to be likely to cause death). However here we have a product known to damage the bee population, an essential resource, so it is now a question of balancing known damage (not possible) against known benefits. Not a precaution, but a benefit/disbenefit argument.

I agree, Malcolm. One of the disbenefits of getting rid of neonicotinoids (and the same would apply to other nasty pesticides) is the unknown impact on the cost of food. Another issue is how a ban would affect our agricultural industry, a significant contributor to our economy.

Though I am trying to point out that this is not a simple issue, I don’t want pesticides in my food. Pesticides even get into organically-grown crops that have not been treated, simply because they are present in the environment.

Friend of the bees says:
28 February 2013

wavechange, like Phil Chandler, I suspect you are in fact an industry professional – your role on here seems to be to ‘spread doubt’ as to the real cause of the global pandemic of bee deaths.
There is not a shred of doubt that the global use of systemic neonicotinoids are the primary cause of global bee and pollinator decline. The neonics are hyper-toxic to bees: imidacloprid is 7,300 times more toxic, weight for weight than the deadly DDT was. They are also hyper-persistent – remaining in soil for up to 4 years and contaminating wildflowers and follow on crops.

Your alleged ‘concern’ over the ‘disbenefits’ (never heard that one from Joe Public before) of getting rid of neonics comes across like Uriah Heep wrining his hands over poor Pip. There are no ‘disbenefits to getting rid of neonicotinoids. France banned them 12 years ago on oilseed rape, maize and sunflowers – all of which attract bees. last time I looked French agriculture had NOT collapsed and there were no people starving in the streets of Paris.

So carry on with the ‘sowing of doubt’ and spreading smokescrees, it won’t wash.

I have spent my entire working life doing research and teaching in universities. One of the modules I ran before I retired involved giving groups of students contemporary problems relevant to science. They were expected to work present different viewpoints supported by good quality scientific reviews and papers (definitely not using stuff from websites unless this was to illustrate prejudice and misunderstanding) and to produce a balanced report that focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the different viewpoints.

It was Malcolm who introduced the term ‘disbenefits’ and it seemed relevant to using the term when replying to his comment.

Nowhere in my many comments in this Conversation have I said that I support the use of neonicotinoids, though in my second post I tried to explain why I thought that a ban has not taken place in all EU countries. I went as far as to say that it would make sense to start with banning them in countries where the problem is seen to be greatest. Neonicotinoids are certainly not the only problem facing bees.

I have repeatedly advocated use of biological control agents (this involves using natural predators to control insect pests) and developing more to broaden the range of pests that can be controlled. It avoids using systemic chemicals that are harmful to most or all forms of life.

Neonicotinoids were, I understand, introduced as an alternative to organophosphates which are generally regarded as much more hazardous chemicals. I would love to get rid of both classes of pesticides. The problem is that modern agriculture is highly dependent on them. I would really like to know what you propose as an alternative to neonicotinoids and whether there is evidence that your solution would work in UK agriculture.

Your comments are rather unkind, but at least I have suggested how we could go forward without these chemicals. On the other hand, you have not suggested how we should replace the neonicotinoids that are in widespread use in the UK.

pargyle says:
1 March 2013

There is little doubt now that neonicitoids are bad for all insects and may have lasting effects in the crops on which they are used. They are seriously affecting our honey bee population. They need to be banned immediately but our mealy mouthed Government and in particular the minister most involved, Owen Paterson, are back pedalling as though there is all the time in the world. Paterson is intent on blocking the legislation currently going through the EU to ban neonics on crops that attract polllinators … a very reasonable bit of EU legislation being obstructed by our Government which is in denial.

wavechange, I think rather than wondering how we might replace neonicotinoids, we should be considering how on earth we can replace bees. There are other factors affecting their health, but it seems neonicotinoids are a significant factor. We can find ways of dealing with food production.
You could argue that fish are a vital food source, so don’t restrict their catch. But when they are gone – as some species nearly were – they cannot be replaced. We did the same to bison. We, as a species, are very good at turning a blind eye to the destruction of other life forms, and then waking up to the reality when it is nearly too late.

You might well be right, Malcolm. The huge impact of man on our environment was a recurring theme in the biology and environmental science degrees offered in the university at which I used to work. That is why I am so keen that we should be addressing the problem of population growth in the UK and the rest of the world.

wavechange – hope you haven’t buzzed off for long. These discussions are only worthwhile if diverse opinions and suggestions are expressed. Here, overwhelmingly, the view is to ban neonicotinoids; however we cannot say that is a representative view. We need to hear the whole case.
It is, I think, a pity that Which do not arrange for other interested parties to provide input more regularly, either to add fact or to express their justification. Most conversations seem to be left to their own devices, sometimes with factoids and misinformation unchallenged; it would help greatly if, where appropriate, expert views and information were interrjected.

Hi Malcolm, thanks for the comment. We’d love more organisations and industry experts to comment, and we do often send them their way, but it’s down to them to do actually do so. I’ll see what I can do with this one. Thanks.

Thanks both. I hope that we might get some input from farmers who currently use these pesticides. Bear in mind that they would not pay for expensive pesticides if they could easily grow crops without them.

Friend of the bees says:
1 March 2013

Wavechange:
“On the other hand, you have not suggested how we should replace the neonicotinoids that are in widespread use in the UK. ”
here are some background facts: the pesticide ‘revolution’

1. Neonics were used on over 2,300,000 acres of UK crops in 2011, of which approx 462,000 acres of wheat, OSR, barley, peas, beans, apples, tomatoes etc were seed-treated with Imidacloprid and a further 1.9 million acres were treated with Clothianidin. That means every seed was coated with a systemic neurotoxin – that perfuses the entire plant for the entire growing season – from seed to fruit.
Check it out: https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/pusstats/

2. These poisons are HYPER toxic. Just 3 parts per billion in sugar solution will kill any insect.
That equates to 1 teaspoon in 1000 metric tonnes of water – an average swimming pool. More dramatically, just 4 picogrammes – 4 trillionths of a gramme, if administered over 10 days, achieved a 100% bee kill (Dr Luz Belzunces research in 1994 – INRA, France)
Imidacloprid is 7,200 times more toxic to bees than DDT – weight for weight.
Clothianidin in about 6,000 times more toxic.

3. They PERSIST in the crop for many months – and are bio-available to all bees and pollinators as long as the crop flowers – via poisoned pollen and nectar/

4. They PERSIST in the soil for up to 1200 days and kill all the earthworms, soil invertebrates etc for that entire period. No life above soil; no life below soil. Could this be the reason why 19 farmland bird species have declined in the UK by up to 80% in just 20 years? No insects = no baby skylarks, peewits, thrushes, yellowhammers, sparrows, starlings, partridges . . .

5. The LAW in the EU is that no pesticide can be licensed if it persists in soil for 120 days – but Imidacloprid persists for up to 900 days and Clothianidin persists for up to 1200 days; one study in America said Clothianidin persists for up to 13,000 days (19 years) on clay soils. That is – if only ONE crop is seed treated with these poisons; if they treat a crop every year, and 98% of the pesticide remains in the soil – then we are talking about the permanent toxic pollution of millions of acres of UK soil for many decades to come. And the residual poison is absorbed into ANY flower or crop which follows in that field. You plant poppies and you get poison poppies for 20 years./

6. PROPHYLACTIC USE
In the past, the ‘old’ pesticides were applied ‘in reaction’ to a ‘real’ invasion of insects. Today the neonics are applied ‘prophylactically’ to every seed, in every acre of every field, every planting, every year, after year. after year. Currently 2,300,000 acres of UK crops and 242 million acres of American cropland and soil are PERMANENTLY poisonous to ALL insect and invertebrate life.

Finally, France banned neonics on oilseed rape, sunflowers and maize in 2000AD and guess what? The crops did not die. They used crop rotation and IPM to minimise insect pests – and they allowed natural predators like: lacewings, swallows, ladybirds, beetles and a hundred other species – to eat the aphids.

As things stand, 2,300,000 acres of UK farmland are highly toxic to ALL forms of wildlife, above ground, below ground, and around the fields, in water ditches, ponds and wetlands adjacent to treated fields. Neonics are highly soluble in water and can travel for miles in water – to be absorbed by flowers logn distances away.

These are the most poisonous substances ever synthesised by perverted science.

We are agreed that chemical pesticides are harmful, and that they pollute water courses. It’s not just neonicotinoids that are causing the problem. It’s not just bees that are affected.

You mention use of predators to deal with insect pests in France. This is known as biological control, and I mentioned its value in my first post in this Conversation. Biological control occurs naturally, but can be much more effective if enhanced. As I have mentioned earlier, many biological control treatments are permitted in organic farming.

You might not think it, but our wishes are probably very similar!

I would be very interested in more information on how France or other countries have used biological control to replace neonicotinoids. For the benefit of other readers, IPM stands for integrated pest management. IPM is effectively a respected scientific approach to pest control that can offer considerable environmental benefits. Prophylactic treatment can be part of IPM. Using a small amount of a treatment can be much better than trying to treat the problem when there is a major infestation to deal with.

If Friend of the Bees is correct, and if used as a prophylactic leaves more or less permanent fatal residues to insects, then I see no case whatsoever to continue with its use – insects are essential to a healthy environment. I don’t want to see them, and those that feed on them, decimated. What will be left if we continue with this?
Whenever we meet a situation like this, and ban something, it stimulates urgent work to find an acceptable replacement. If we don’t ban it, many farmers will continue to take the easy route with no regards for the environment.

One of the reasons for prophylactic use of pesticides is to significantly reduce the amount used. If you wait until a crop is badly affected, much more pesticide will be needed to treat the problem.

I understand that neonicotinoids were introduced mainly because organophosphates are highly toxic to humans, as well as being toxic to bees and other forms of wildlife. If we introduce a new pesticide or prescription drug, it goes through extensive trials, but many pesticides and drugs have been banned after being in widespread use. Had we not introduced neonicotinoids we would have, I believe, have continued using something much worse.

Crop rotation and breeding of pest-resistant and disease-resistant varieties are good examples of how a scientific approach can help deal with farmers’ problems. Unfortunately, they are not a complete solution.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that a ban does not seriously disrupt UK food production. Hopefully trials have been conducted to assess the effect of withdrawal and mitigation measures. I am not aware of any country that has a complete ban, though hopefully safer alternatives to neonicotinoids will become available sooner rather than later.

Che Guebuddha says:
2 March 2013

“Had we not introduced neonicotinoids we would have, I believe, have continued using something much worse.”

What are you suggesting here? To keep the Neonics 😉 ?

Im sure the paranoid human race is capable of creating even more devistating substances to Life, its our talent! We need to let nature be nature and not fight it constantly. Healthy Soil Food Web is able to balance itself when healthy. No-tilling and covering the soil is the solution to all problems we have.
Instead of running to daddy Bayer as soon a pest hits to kill it, lets breed Life which balance the pest! Such pest balancing (note! Im not using word Control) requires healthy Soil Food Web which is rich in fungi, bacteria, eartworms, protozoa, alge, nematodes, beetles, moles, snails, frogs, etc … For such biodiversity (including birds) to thrive Carbon rich organic material is needed. Soil is to be covered by it to retain moisture for the Soil Food Web to thrive.

There are no nutrient leekeages because they are contained (and exchanged) within the fungi, bacteria, protozoa …. contained in the Soil Food Web. Plants Rhyzosphere is fed and protected by the fungi and bacteria.

No more Naked Soil !!! Cover it and tend for the life under it!
The solution is to encourage small scale organic farmers who sell locally. The solution is people supporting local small scale organic farmers.

But can this kind of revolution happen in a Profit Orientated Mind? Can it?!
Of course NOT! We must re-think whether we need such paranoid and greedy governments? Maybe living de-centralised would be of more benefit to the life on this planet …

It is clear … we need to shift perspective … absolute change of our so called western life style! I know Im on my way to do it through self-sufficient homesteading.

Che Guebuddha says:
2 March 2013

Pesticide loving governments tell us that we cant make enough food without the use of pesticides yet only in Sweden each supermarket throws away 30 tons of food a year!!! And we have many supermarkets!!! Only Willys Supermarket throws 3 tons of vegetables and fruits each week per supermarket!!! And there thousands of Willys in Sweden! Each swede throws away 100kg of food per year! What about other nations?!

Those spreading the info that we cant make enough food if we stop with the use of pesticides are Public Enemies No.1 !!! And should be treated as criminals in my opinion!

We need leaders like Dalai Lama or Ghandi or Schumacher or Krishnamurti, people who say Small is Beautiful! We waste like never before in the history of this planet yet we only research how to produce more and destry more!

Its about time to STOP this madness!

Ban neonics, ban all pesticides, ban monocultures! instead encourage permaculture, return health to the Soil Food Web, return health to biodiversity!

Che

I’m not suggesting anything here. I have made it clear that I am concerned about the use of agricultural chemicals and not just neonicotinoids.

The population density of the UK is high, particularly in England. The government has some responsibility towards ensuring that people are fed. You advocate homesteading, but how do you expect people renting flats in London to be self-sufficient? How much land would an average family require to be self-sufficient? Don’t forget that the average person in the UK is more of a consumer than a producer and may do little or no gardening.

Is there any country in the world that has completely banned neonicotinoids? I understand that they are banned for some purposes in France but permitted for other uses. Why is there not a complete ban? There might be a good reason, but I don’t know. Maybe you know the answer.

Friends of the Earth are calling for a ban on three neonicotinoids, rather than a complete ban. Maybe you know the reason.

It all seems very complex, and I hope that those who make the decisions will take advice from specialists who understand all the issues involved.

Che Guebuddha says:
4 March 2013

“Why is there not a complete ban?”

This is the correct question 😉 lets find out shall we!

Friend of the bees says:
2 March 2013

PESTICIDE INDUSTRY TROLLS

A ‘pestitute’ TROLL is a professional PR specialist who monitors and posts on any significant Public Web Forum in order to defend the interest of pesticide manufacturers and retailers. They haunt all the major beekeeping forums, the gardening forums and the farming press.

Trolls normally adopt a likeable persona – a retired organic gardener for example; though it is usually as bad as cardboard pop-up doll. A troll may be paid to monitor a dozen different beekeeping and gardening forums. The current ‘mission’ is to block the EU Commission’s proposal to ban neonicotinoid insecticides from being voted through – at any costs. Bayer, Syngenta and the Crop Protection Association are funding an army of trolls, media specialists and copy-writers to spread ‘doubt’, ‘ false concern’ about our ‘poor honeybees’ – but if you read between the lines you can plainly see when a troll is at work.

See wikipedia article here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)
Section 3 – ‘The Concern Troll’

“A concern troll is a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the user claims to hold. The concern troll posts in Web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group’s actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed “concerns”.

The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group.”
I think that the main objects of wavechange’s postings are:

1. To sow doubt over whether neonicotinoids are the ‘rea’ cause of global bee deaths
2. To sow doubt over whether farmers would go bankrupt if neonics were withdrawn
3. To sow doubt over global ‘food-security’; without neonics food would be far more expensive
4. To sow doubt over organic farming’s ability to produce our food
5. To smear neonic campaigners as ‘well meaning fools’
6. To smear anti-neonic organisations like the Soil Association as ‘ biased and unworthy of trust’

Secondly, I think that he is issuing false propaganda:

a. If neonics were banned – any substitute would be far worse
b. Prophylactic, ubiquitous, preventative, blanket use of neonics is a ‘good thing’

Here are ‘wavechange’s’ ‘concerns’ and ‘doubts’.

* “Rather than introducing and then banning chemicals used in agriculture and gardening we should be focusing on expanding use of biological control”
* “Neonicotinoids are only one of the threats to bees”
* “In principle, I would like to see a ban on neonicotinoids, but I wonder about the consequences of a ban on these effective insecticides”

*” It is better to avoid using pesticides and fungicides, though having had my own efforts at growing vegetables wiped out, I can understand why many succumb to using garden chemicals”

* “I did not want to use sprays on them . . I don’t know one rose from another but I explained my problem to a knowledgeable gardener, who chose what to buy”

*”Is it not better to try a ban in those countries that appear to be worst affected and look for evidence of improvement? If that is seen then the ban can be extended. Don’t forget that the precautionary principle has been widely criticised. ”

* “I’m not even sure about independent reports . . I’ve seen too many that have been biased in favour of the views of the sponsors.”

* “Here’s an article that refers to the sale of products containing these pesticides for use in gardens, indicating that some suppliers have removed products from their shelves”

* “I would like to see chemical pesticides phased out, unless there is good evidence that they are safe.”

* “Agriculture relies heavily on the use of pesticides and without them, yields would be lower and food more expensive for everyone”

* “Older readers will remember DDT, a notorious insecticide that accumulated in the environment. However, by preventing destruction of crops, DDT saved a lot of lives”

* “Don’t forget that the EU is only proposing a ban for use of neonicotinoids on crops that are attractive to bees, or that they were introduced to replace much nastier chemicals such as organophosphates.”

* “It would be interesting to know what impact a ban would have in terms of the cost of food. Many of us could cope with this, but we need to think about those who would struggle. ”

* “Without pesticides, more land would have to be used for agriculture because of reduced crop yields, and that would have serious effects on wildlife.”

* “I would love to believe that organic farming techniques can produce the same yields as are currently achieved on UK farms, but I don’t. ”

* ” expecting a balanced view from an organisation [ the Soil Association] that is opposed to their use is not necessarily the best way to find the truth. ”

* “However, I do hope that they will find out what impact banning of neonicotinoids will have on the cost of food”

* “I don’t want us to continue using neonicotinoids, but I am trying to point out that use of pesticides is a very complex issue. ”

* “Always paying attention to the precautionary principle could have put paid to the development civilisation as we know it. We might still be living in caves, if we had survived famine and disease. ”

* “I don’t know about neonicotinoids to offer a personal recommendation – it is not a case of being unable to make a commitment. ”

* “Since a ban would affect farmers, it is obviously essential to speak to their representatives and explore alternative solutions”

* “One of the disbenefits of getting rid of neonicotinoids (and the same would apply to other nasty pesticides) is the unknown impact on the cost of food.”

* “I am trying to point out that this is not a simple issue,”

* “Neonicotinoids are certainly not the only problem facing bees.”

* “Neonicotinoids were, I understand, introduced as an alternative to organophosphates which are generally regarded as much more hazardous chemicals. ”

* “I would really like to know what you propose as an alternative to neonicotinoids and whether there is evidence that your solution would work in UK agriculture.”

* “you have not suggested how we should replace the neonicotinoids that are in widespread use in the UK. ”

* “Bear in mind that they would not pay for expensive pesticides if they could easily grow crops without them. ”

* “It’s not just neonicotinoids that are causing the problem. It’s not just bees that are affected.”

* “Prophylactic treatment can be part of IPM. Using a small amount of a treatment can be much better than trying to treat the problem when there is a major infestation to deal with.”

* One of the reasons for prophylactic use of pesticides is to significantly reduce the amount used.”

* “I understand that neonicotinoids were introduced mainly because organophosphates are highly toxic to humans, as well as being toxic to bees”

* “If we introduce a new pesticide or prescription drug, it goes through extensive trials . . Had we not introduced neonicotinoids we would have, I believe, have continued using something much worse.”

* “The government has a responsibility to ensure that a ban does not seriously disrupt UK food production.”

“I am not aware of any country that has a complete ban”

Remember what the Bible says: “By their Actions Ye Shall Know them”

Hello Friend of the bees,

Firstly, if you suspect someone of being a troll, please report their comment or email us at https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/ rather than publicly accusing them on the thread itself.

Secondly, Wavechange has been a commenter on Which? Conversation for two years, making an impressive 4,000 comments on almost every subject. This is the very first debate we have published about bees and Neonicotinoids – we do not expect you to know this, however, we have every confidence that he is no way a troll. Please feel free to disagree with one another, but do not make your comments personal.

Thanks for the vote of confidence Patrick. I will admit to trying to broaden discussion here and on other Conversations by raising issues that have not been mentioned. I could easily have joined in by saying ‘I agree – we should ban neonicotinoids’, because I’m not happy with UK use of chemical pesticides, which are toxic to wildlife and some are dangerous to humans.

This Conversation was about home use of garden pesticides containing neonicotinoids and I started discussing agricultural use, which is a very different issue. I apologise to Veronica and to you.

I have found bees fascinating, ever since I worked in the same lab as an expert beekeeper – in the late 70s. We used to look at honey samples under the microscope to find out which flowers the bees had been collecting nectar from.

salp111 says:
2 March 2013

I agree with all those who wish to ban the neonics…not only for our poor bees who have so much to deal with in this man-dominated world; with climatic change, & indiscriminately destructive systemic pesticides, but for all our insects. We need the pollinators. We need the insect life to maintain a decent balance with the planet. We need a rich & fertile soil. I know there will be a difficult transitory phase where farmers will have to relearn the benefits of the 4 year rotation, manuring instead of throwing on the pellets, sowing more seed so the pests have their share who in turn feed their predators(or some other methods). Banning neonics quite simply has to be done. How can a dead soil support us? How can we consider living in an essentially dead world, few birds, few wild animals…or just the ones we really don’t like!, which may sound like science fiction but isn’t so far from becoming a reality? Just look at America’s trials & tribulations, importing bees cos they’ve killed all theirs with their crazy farming system, only to kill the imported bees too! No thanks. Hand pollination isn’t an option. We couldn’t afford it. We can afford to change our farming given the economic alternative of hand pollination. No facts or figures here. Just me following through each scenario in my head. Neonics or no neonics? It just makes sense to stop them now before it’s too late.

Friend of the bees says:
4 March 2013

Hi patrick,
what I was trying to do was point out that ALL relevant agrdening, farming and beekeeping forums in the UK, USA and Europe are monitored 24/7 by professionals working for the pesticide companies. They have £1 billion of profits to defend annually – and ‘controlling the discussion’ is a perfectly logical public relations response to any ‘preceived threat’ to their neurotoxic products, currently being used on over 2.3 million acres of UK crops and 243 million acres of American crops.

Try an experiment for yourselves. Go to A+NY well known gardening or beekeeping forum and make a posting saying you are ‘concerned’ about neonicotinoids. Within an hour or less, you will find yourself under attack from someone who knows all of the arguments in massive detail.
If you post on the British Beekeepers Forum – you will be censored and eventually banned. if you post on the UK Beekeeping Forum, you will be censored – and any discussion of ‘pesticides’ is a ‘hidden’ debate, walled off in a special section of the forum only visible if you are ‘signed in’.
If you post anything on the Scottish Beekeeping Forum, you will be attacked, humiliated, bullied and – if you persist in saying ‘my bees are dying due to neonics’ – you will be censored, then banned.

None of this is a coincidence. None of it is accidental. It is part of a very expensive, highlyh co-ordinated Transatlantic PR strategy, paid for by Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto, channeled through the ‘Crop Protection Association’ in this country and through their ‘hired gun’ PR company. In the USA the money is channeled through ‘Croplife’. The cost is enormous.

This is not a paranoid fantasy; it is how PR companies dominate the public discourse in an era of Social Media. please see this Wiki article on ‘Sockpuppets’ (glove puppets)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sockpuppet_(Internet)

ABSTRACT:

“A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term—a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock—originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an internet community who spoke to, or about himself while pretending to be another person.[1] The term now includes other uses of misleading online identities, such as those created to praise, defend or support a third party or organization,[2] or to circumvent a suspension or ban from a website. A significant difference between the use of a pseudonym[3] and the creation of a sockpuppet is that the sockpuppet poses as an independent third-party unaffiliated with the puppeteer. Many online communities have a policy of blocking sockpuppets.

The term “sockpuppet” was used as early as July 9, 1993[4] but did not become common in USENET groups until 1996. The first Oxford English Dictionary example of the term, defined as “a person whose actions are controlled by another; a minion,” is taken from U.S. News and World Report, March 27, 2000.[5]

ABSTRACT 2:

“In November 2012, Lisa Jackson, who headed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during President Barack Obama’s first administration, was caught writing “numerous” emails under a fake name to dodge congressional oversight and public records laws. Jackson used the name “Richard Windsor,” a name that was derived from the family dog’s name.[8] The use of the private emails under the pseudonym only came to light after Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, sued the EPA for documents pertaining to Jackson’s use of alias email accounts. That suit brought scrutiny by congressional Republicans and eventually an audit by the EPA’s inspector general.[9] When Jackson announced that she was leaving the administration at the end of Obama’s first term neither she nor the president made any references to her use of the pseudonym to hide information.[9]”

[This comment has been edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Hello Friends ofthe bees, I commend you for your passion in this area, however we can categorically say that Wavechange is not a troll. We are keen to keep Which? Conversation free of trolls and will continue to moderate this thread and others to ensure it stays this way.

Please try and debate the issue at hand – you clearly have a lot of knowledge about this and I think you are very capable of arguing your side of the debate. Any other public accusations in this manner will be removed.

Honey bees are our principal bee pollinators, I understand, and operate in an incredibly selfless society, working ceaselessly to preserve their species. We benefit immensely from this, and don’t see a viable alternative for many of our crops. Therefore we should not put them at risk but it appears that neonicotinoids do damage their survival. We should adopt the precautionary principal and cease use whilst looking at alternative ways of protecting crops. Otherwise it may be too late to take corrective action. A prime target is agriculture and this will require government intervention; domestic use could possibly be done voluntarily.
That is my view as a non-expert! However the conversation needs facts to support either side; inevitably these will come in part from vested interests, whether pesticide manufacturers (who will not condemn their product, I suppose) or from bee keepers who will err on the side of caution (as is my stance). Hopefully other organisations have produced information that can be treated as unbiassed.
I had taken Friend of the Bees contribution as informative, if forceful. However the later contribution above worries me that he/she can only argue by attempting to discredit the oppositing views, or their proponents. If he/she has unequivocal evidence to support the claims then perhaps he/she would give links to the appropriate work. That would help the comversation along a rational route.

Malcolm – I’m going to leave this Conversation. I certainly endorse your view that facts are needed to support arguments. I would be surprised if our government introduces a complete ban before a viable alternative is available. That does not prevent a partial ban, as we have in France and a few other countries. Some years ago, it was evident that lead in petrol was a serious problem. This was eventually dealt with by decreasing the amount of lead, designing engines that could run on lead-free fuel, and introducing lead replacement petrol for use in older vehicles. That achieved what had to be done using a practical approach, though I wish it had been done many years earlier.

We would do well to think about the many ways that our current lifestyle if progressively wrecking the environment we live in. Pesticides are only one example.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21277933
This link reports what appears to be the current EU stance – that from July the use of three chemicals containing neonicotinoids will be banned from use on certain crops that attract bees (e.g. oil seed rape and sunflowers). Defra have said there is insufficient evidence to support a ban, but are waiting for the results of more tests – due soon. However the ban will automatically include the UK.
Is this good enough, or just a step in the right direction?

Che Guebuddha says:
4 March 2013

wavechange wrote;
“problem of population growth”

If de-populationists (producers of neonicotinoids and GMO) continue their work this problem might be solved sooner than you might think 😉

http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/14/01/2013/137154/neonicotinoid-ban-could-cost-farmers-39millions39.htm
This is a link to Farmers Weekly that concerns the cost of a proposed ban.

Friend of the bees says:
4 March 2013

The current proposal by the European Commission has less than a 50-50 chance of being passed since the UK government, under intense lobbying from Syngenta, Bayer and the NFU – has already stated that it intends to use its vote to oppose any moratorium on neonicotinoids, even on a partial ban applied to bee-attractive crops like oilseed rape, sunflowers and maize.

Damian Carrington, Environment Correspondent of the Guardian has set out the truly evil nature of the politics involved in his blolg last weekend, read it here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2013/mar/01/bees-pesticide-neonicotinoids?CMP=twt_fd

UK’s national ‘inaction’ plan on pesticides betrays bees

A legal requirement for reduction targets is apparently ignored, as ministers’ fig leaf for delaying EU-wide action is blown away by their own chief scientist

I forgive you for missing the belated publication of the UK’s brand new action plan for the “sustainable” use of pesticides, given that it was not announced anywhere by anyone but simply stuck on obscure government web page.

Such modesty is perhaps unsurprising: ministers have a great deal to be modest about when it comes to pesticides, particularly the growing scandal of its complacency over the impact of neonicotinoids on the bees and other pollinators on which a third of our food relies.

But as luck would have it, ministers and officials had to break cover to give evidence – again – to MPs on the environment audit committee. And how revealing it was.

While environment secretary Owen Paterson was telling farmers on Wednesday that a European Commission proposal to suspend neonicotinoids must be delayed at least until new British field data is published, his own chief scientist was telling MPs that those very trials had been terribly compromised.

There is great irony in the fact that the problem with the trials is that the “control” hives – meant to be free of neonicotinoids – were contaminated with those very same pesticides. Scientists have warned for some time that the field trials – demanded as proof of harm by the industry that makes billions from selling the chemicals – are virtually impossible to do because neonics are almost ubiquitous. They are the most used insecticides in the world.

So while Paterson was saying “I have asked the Commission to wait for the results of our field trials, rather than rushing to a decision based on lab tests alone”, chief scientist Ian Boyd was telling MPs “at the control site, there were residues of neonics in pollen and nectar”. Boyd added, hilariously, “this is the nature of field studies – you can’t control for everything.”

You can of course control for many factors in lab-based studies, but they are not realistic, claim ministers and industry lobbyists alike. Isn’t that a lovely Catch-22 with which to maintain the profitable status quo?

Nonetheless, even despite the serious flaws, the study appeared to show slower growth rates in hives sited next to fields treated with the neonic imidacloprid.

Paterson was disingenuous in calling the growing pile of evidence of neonic harm “lab-based”: many studies allow the insects to fly freely outside into fields and beyond, but give measured doses of the chemicals precisely to avoid the problems Boyd revealed. Boyd also claimed the doses given are much greater than real field doses, contradicting the description of them as “field-realistic” in peer-reviewed studies published in the world’s leading scientific journals.

Paterson’s minister, Lord de Mauley continued the twisting of information when he disputed the MPs assertion that the European Food Safety Authority’s recent report did not recommend a suspension of neonics: the tables in the EFSA report very clearly do so.

The UK, along with Spain and Germany, is thought to be blocking the EU’s attempts to suspend three neonics for two years for flowering crops like oil seed rape. The national action plan (NAP) on pesticides demonstrate similar intransigence.

Asked what has changed compared to the draft issued for consultation, David Bench, director of chemicals regulation at the Health and Safety Executive, told MPs: “The final draft is broadly the same as the earlier draft. We have just clarified the wording a bit.” MP Matthew Offord was driven to sarcasm, asking rhetorically whether Bench thought the consultation had been “effective”?

The government is bound to produce the NAP by EU law, which states: “Member States should monitor the use of plant protection products containing substances of particular concern and establish timetables and targets for the reduction of their use”. Yet the “comprehensive” (29-page) NAP contains no timetable or targets, despite the area of crops being doused with pesticide actually being on the rise in the UK.

Bench said, with a straight face: “We are not in favour of quantitative pesticide reduction targets as they are generally meaningless.” The committee chair, Joan Walley was agog by this point and asked about the UK’s legal responsibility. “We have checked with our lawyers that our pesticides action plan satisfies the requirements of directive,” said Bench. Walley’s face remained agog, while MP Martin Caton accused officials of “cherry-picking” from the EU rules.

Paul de Zylva, at Friends of the Earth, sums it up nicely: “Ministers had the chance to produce an NAP to reduce risk to people, bees and other wildlfe. It has failed. This is more of an inaction plan. This was a chance for the government to show that when it says it’s not complacent about public health and bees alike that it means it. Instead, it’s done as little as it can to get by.”

Ministers say they want to “ensure that the NAP forms a ‘living’ document”. Yet their dither, delay and denial seems likely only to result in the continued death of more of the pollinators on which much of our food depends.

Morene Griggs says:
4 March 2013

We keep bees and I use only Savona or SB plant invigorator to reduce aphids in the greenhouse but this year I discovered I had Fuchsia gall mite on my extensive collection and the Westland product was the ONLY one claiming to provide any kind of control. I have only used it inside the closed greenhouse during the cold months and would be very happy to learn if there were anything else suitable beyond the cultural methods I use.

Friend of the bees says:
9 March 2013

HORTICULTURE TRADE ASSOCIATION
http://www.hortweek.com/news/1171118/

Garden centres bow to Facebook pressure and remove neonicotinoid pesticides

By Matthew Appleby Friday, 15 February 2013

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Garden centres are taking neonicotinoid based pesticides off their shelves in response to a Facebook campaign arguing neonicotinoids are responsible for bee deaths.

Scotsdales has bowed to pressure on Facebook to take the products out of the shop.

MD Caroline Owen, said: “We have taken our products off after Facebook went crazy as a temporary measure.”

The Facebook campaign began on 29 January, with posters urging Scotsdales to follow DIY superstores and take the lead among garden centres by taking down the products.

The HTA says there is no reason for garden centres to not sell the pesticides. Business development director Tim Briercliffe said: “There is nothing to make a link with a garden situation.”

He added: “I wouldn’t blame any individual business for removing products. We’re not telling them what to do but the products are ok.”
Notcutts, Hillier, Squires and Blue Diamond have all followed DIY superstores B&Q, Homebase and Wickes by removing the products.

Concern about the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on bee populations has risen sharply in recent months. Last month the European Commission proposed restictions on three neonicotinoid chemicals following a report by the European Food Safety Authority.

Friends of the Earth is urging people to contact their local garden centres to ask them to remove products containing neonicotinoid pesticides.

The oganisation’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: “The approach of leading retailers stands in stark contrast to the Government’s reluctance to back European efforts to safeguard bees from pesticides.

“With bee numbers plummeting Environment Secretary Owen Paterson must take urgent action to safeguard these crucial pollinators by backing a ban and introducing a bee action plan to tackle all the threats they face.”

Hillier Garden Centres commented: “Hillier will withdraw any (in our case 2) products containing imidacloprid, chlothianidin, thiamethoxam. They will be off our shelves by tomorrow [6 February 2013] at the latest.”

Notcutts said: “There are many different neonicotinoids and we have removed the products with the three that were highlighted by the European Food Safety Authority whilst we look into this in more detail.”

Blue Diamond said it will “drop the lawn grub killer with immediate effect. We are reviewing our other products and intend to finalise our policy before Easter when sales of these products begin.”

Squires said: “We are very concerned and have withdrawn any products that contain the pesticides; clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, as a precaution.”

The Garden Centre Group, says it stocks one product containing the neonicotinoid Imidacloprid, adding: “We only stock it in very small volumes. However when used according to the instructions it poses no risk to bees.”

Bayer, which produces a lawn grub killer that has been removed by B&Q and others, said it had “no plans” to withdraw the product, adding the product is “apporved and has been through the regulatory system”.

Westland’s Plant Rescue product “has not been removed from anywhere”, said the company, which added that it also had no plans to withdraw the product.

OK – but what about the bigger scale of use in agriculture?

Che Guebuddha says:
9 March 2013

Malcolm,

Big scale agriculture is the next thing to ban! It is a terrorist act against insects, various critters and birds with them because of a “one crop murder”! Not just that! Another thing to ban is killing the Soul Food Web (fungi, bacteria, protozoa, etc) in the soil by the non-organic aplication of NPK fertilisers!

Rapeing the soil must STOP! Alternative to big scale agriculture is a LOCAL small scale organic farming 🙂 so simple the solution is. So many small farmers are taken out of the market by the Big Guns! Politics where people and nature matter can support the rise of small scale organic farming which honours the biodiversiti and brings more people back to land.

Such politics will tax the pesticide using farmers so much to make organic farming cheaper.
Soon the taxed farmers will turn to less taxed organic farming.

Todays perspective must shift towards preserving the soil food web which feeds the plants instead of the NPK killer of Mycorrhiza!
Covering the soil with woodchips and hey keeps the moisture so not much irrigation is needed + the soil critters have something to chew on and decompose. Such soil is rich in carbon and the nutrients are preserved in the bodies of billions of fungi and bacteria which are protecting the plant roots.
Large scale agriculture does not respect that! Small scale organic farmers do!

Politics where people matter will encourage people to return to land and start organic small scale farming by lowering their taxses, because it is of great importance our people eat healthy and the soil food web is preserved for future generations!

There is a solution if one wants to see it! Those with an agenda will always have doubts and spread doubts!